If it wasn’t for Jo, a South African friend of ours, we would never have found – or heard of – this place. This is not a place splashed all over Conde Nast Traveller or on Instagram, like the South African big hitters The Test Kitchen or La Colombe. In fairness it’s not comparable to those restaurants, and nor does it want to be.
It’s a bit of a secret, and while I’d like to keep it that way, this place deserves sharing. Not that it really needs any promotion, it’s always fully booked and has a definite loyal local following. It’s location on the Garden Route, in the sleepy ‘town’ of Stanford, means that it works brilliantly as a stopover for lunch if you’re driving to Hermanus (15 minutes) or even Cape Town (1.5 hours).
In a country which has become famous for its food, Mariana’s more than holds its own. It was our most authentic, most ‘local’ experience. Nothing fancy, nothing flashy. It’s like eating at someone’s house, and in fact that is exactly what it is. Mariana and husband Peter run – and own – the show. Mariana is a well known chef in her own right, and you’ll find her permanently in the kitchen, while the charming Peter plays the host – he waiters and explains the menu with great care and joy.
The best tables are outside on the shaded terrace, with views of the organic garden and the luscious green countryside and surrounding mountains. The menu is all organic and locally sourced product, all straight from their garden. We loved the duck with lentils, the salads and the creme brûlée to finish.
When the bill came we simply couldn’t believe it. One of the best lunches we had, two courses each, with a carafe of wine – and it came to less than £15.
Highly recommend it to anyone driving the stunning Garden Route, and also to those staying in Hermanus (where, apart from The Marine and Birkenhead House, the standard of restaurants is far lower – and more touristy, than the rest of the Garden Route).
Mariana’s (The Owl’s Barn)
11 Du Toit Street
Open for lunch Thursday – Sunday
Pre-booking necessary: 028341027
Photo credit: Mariana’s and some are my own